On Crying in Baseball

Tom Hanks’s character in the film, A League of Their Own, Jimmy Dugan, chews out one of the girls he manages in the story, and she bursts into tears. “Are you crying?” Jimmy asks, incredulously. “No,” the player says through her sobs. “There’s no crying in baseball!” Jimmy yells at her.

Nobody told that to Charlie. He loved the game of baseball, but he grew frustrated when he struck out. Often, after a poor performance at the plate, Charlie broke down in tears. His coach and his teammates would try to console him when he cried, but they rarely could make him feel better. Charlie simply loved the game that much.

Now, let’s be realistic here  It’s baseball. You’re going to strike out—often. Even major leaguers who hit the ball safely only 3 out of ten times (batting .300) are among the best players in the game. Failure—on a statistically significant scale—is a major part of the equation.

All of that doesn’t explain why Charlie’s strikeouts pained him so. He knew consistent success actually hitting a baseball was statistically impossible to maintain. His dad, also named Charles, and his granddad, also named Charles, often worked with him to lower his strikeout rate. But he could never get over hearing, “You’re out!” screamed at him by the home plate umpire.

You might well ask—why not quit, Charlie? Maybe your temperament, your passion for excellence might be better served in some field more suitable to your emotional needs. Of course, you might be thinking that Charlie is a little leager, a kid who has issues that could work themselves out as he matured.

Well, yes and no. In many ways, Charlie was a kid all his life. He had a boyish, goofy grin and a shock of sandy hair that gave him the look of a perennial summer day.

But, if you think Charlie—the Charlie that cried after strikeouts—was some kid in a little league park somewhere in America, you would be wrong. He was a major leager himself. And he still cried after strikeouts.

You see, Charlie didn’t go by the name “Charlie.“ His dad had chosen a first name for him from the name of his favorite baseball player, a catcher named Gordon Cochrane. Except Gordon had a nickname—Mickey—that Charlie’s dad chose as his son’s first name.

That’s why you know this crybaby as Mickey Mantle.


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